mixed methods

Data Science and Ethnography: What’s Our Common Ground, and Why Does It Matter?

by TYE RATTENBURY (Salesforce) & DAWN NAFUS (Intel) As EPIC2018 program co-chairs, we developed the conference theme Evidence to explore how evidence is created, used, and abused. We’ll consider the core types of evidence ethnographers make and use through participant observation, cultural analysis, filmmaking, interviewing, digital and mobile techniques, and other essential methods, as well as new approaches in interdisciplinary and cross-functional teams.1 We’ve also made a special invitation to data scientists to join us in Honolulu to advance the intersection of computational and ethnographic approaches. Why? One of us is a data scientist (Tye) and the other an ethnographer (Dawn), both working in industry. We regularly see data science and ethnography conceptualized as polar ends of a research spectrum—one as a crunching of colossal data sets, the other as a slow simmer of experiential immersion. Unfortunately, we also see occasional professional stereotyping. A naïve view of “crunching” can make it seem...

A Mixed Method Approach for Identifying Emerging Fields and Building Collaborative Teams: Leveraging Network Ethnography to Design Experimental Interventions

THERESE KENNELLY OKRAKU Microsoft VALERIO LEONE SCIABOLAZZA University of Florida RAFFAELE VACCA University of Florida CHRISTOPHER MCCARTY University of Florida Rapid innovation in science and technology has led to the development of new fields that transcend traditional disciplinary boundaries. Previous studies have retroactively examined the emergence of these fields. This paper outlines a mixed method approach for using network ethnography to identify emerging fields as they develop, track their evolution over time, and increase collaboration on these topics. This approach allowed us to simultaneously analyze organizational trends and gain an understanding of why these patterns occurred. Collecting ethnographic data throughout the course of the study enabled us to iteratively improve the fit of our models. It also helped us design an experimental method for creating new teams in these fields and test the effectiveness of this intervention. Initially, organizational leaders were wary of using a network intervention...

The Domestication of Data: Why Embracing Digital Data Means Embracing Bigger Questions

DAWN NAFUS Intel Corporation The EPIC community has been wrestling with ways to integrate quantitative and qualitative methods in light of the increasing role that digital data plays in business practices. Some focus on methodological issues (digital data as method), while others point to the consumer value in data products (data as thing in the world). This paper argues that “digital data as method” and “digital data as thing in the world” are becoming increasingly intertwined. We are not merely witnessing ethnographers’ haulting embrace of digital data, but a wider process of the domestication of data, in which we, alongside the people we study, are participants. The domestication of data involves everyday situations in which ordinary people develop their own sense-making methods—methods remarkably similar to ethnographic knowledge production. In this way, the domestication process tightens the connection between data as thing in the world and data as method. I argue that seeing the interconnection gives us the...

Unleashing the Power of an Analytics Organization: Why a Large Financial Institution Used Ethnography to Transform Analytics

by CHRISTINE BIRTEL (Senior Vice President), JASON PAJTAS (Vice President) and MICHELLE GREEN (Vice President), Customer Experience Insights, Wells Fargo Large organizations have been on a quest to harness the power of big data to inform and drive all kinds of decisions—from finance and fraud prevention to product development and marketing. Organizations from the U.S. government, to retailers, to major financial institutions are appointing Chief Data Officers (CDOs) to evangelize the power of big data. The path of creating a data-savvy organization, however, has complicated turns and roadblocks. Starting with the technological foundation for analytics, there exists a dizzying array of platform and software solutions all claiming to be best-in-class. When success drives an organization beyond this foundation, evolving an existing culture and data infrastructure around things like cloud, big data, machine intelligence and block chain can be an overwhelming challenge that seems insurmountable. Beyond infrastructure challenges,...

Ethnography for Smart Service Systems in Product Design

by WILLIAM O. BEEMAN, Department of Anthropology, University of Minnesota In today’s rapidly changing, highly competitive world, product design requires swift translation of human needs and desires into technical specifications for the development of devices and services that meet those needs (Salvador et al. 2013). This calls for a complex integration of qualitative and quantitative data. But despite some notable successes, product design failures are today both extensive and expensive (Anonymous 2015), consuming enormous amounts of time and human labor. Any improvement to the process of product design would be of great public benefit. Many “smart systems” approaches to the product design process address the problems inherent in this process with limited success. In fact, existing “smart systems” are not very smart. There is an extensive literature available to product designers and engineers addressing lapses in strategies for the successful integration of qualitative and quantitative factors in the design process. It...

Big Data or ‘Big Ethnographic Data’? Positioning Big Data within the Ethnographic Space

JOHN CURRAN This paper offers a cultural analysis of the different narratives that currently frame the concept of Big Data. With specific attention to how the ethnographic community has approached Big Data, I will make the point that the ethnographic community needs to rethink what its offer is within the business world. Instead of trying to position ethnography as a discipline that provides deep insights to human behaviour (which we often call ‘the why’), while Big Data offers broad accounts based on large data collection, I make the case that both approaches should be seen as being positioned within an ethnographic space. This is because both ethnography and Big Data are interested in human behaviour and the cultural field and both are interested in generating insights. We should therefore situate Big Data and ethnography as a relationship that exists in a new epistemological field, a field that is both interpretative and data driven. This field I call 'Big Ethnographic Data'....

The Conceit of Oracles

TRICIA WANG Good morning, I am really excited to be here for my first EPIC conference. There are just so many amazing people in the audience as I look at you guys, and so many of you guys I've been following on blogs and Twitter and especially Natalie Hanson’s anthrodesign listserv. I can’t wait to talk to you guys all afterwards. Just as a reminder, I don’t know if Simon already said it, but if you’re tweeting or instragramming—use the conference hashtag EPIC 2013. If throughout the talk you have any questions, or if anything resonates with you, this is my Twitter and Instagram handle.For over twelve centuries in Ancient Greece in consulting oracles, a person who could predict the future was a part of everyday Hellenistic life. People—poor, wealthy, slave and free—asked oracles for them to answer important life questions such as should I get married, or will I come back from war alive, or questions related to business matters. Should I invest in this voyage? There were questions related to political affairs like should...

Understanding Mediated Practices: Combining Ethnographic Methods with Blog Data to Develop Insights

JONATHAN BEAN and ZEYNEP ARSEL While theories of practice have been influential in the social sciences, these frameworks have seen limited application in ethnographic and applied inquiry, perhaps because few methods for carrying out practice theoretical research have been elaborated. We address this opportunity and provide an account of a multi-method inquiry on domestic practice. First, we explain methods for integrating data from blogs with ethnographic methods and how this data can be used to develop theory. Second, we share our experience as interdisciplinary researchers using ethnographic and quantitative data to connect work at the boundaries of social practice theory and theories of consumption. Finally, we share our insights on why industry should aim to better understand existing and emergent consumer practices....

From Street to Satellite: Mixing Methods to Understand Mobile Money Users

ERIN B. TAYLOR and HEATHER A. HORST How do users incorporate mobile money into their existing practices and adapt it to their needs? The answers can be surprising. Simultaneously a commodity, a store of value, and a social good, mobile money combines a large array of applications within the one platform. This is why mobile money has been touted for its potential for socioeconomic development, as a profitable commercial enterprise, and even as a tool for strengthening governance. The fact that customers rarely use it for just one purpose can also make it difficult to untangle customers’ motives and behaviors. In this paper we compare our own research with other studies to demonstrate how deploying a full suite of ethnographic methods (qualitative and quantitative) can provide significant insights into users. We present three key insights relating to time, trust, and traces / trajectories, and make suggestions for the future of mobile money research....

For a Ruthless Criticism of Everything Existing: Rebellion Against the Quantitative-Qualitative Divide

NEAL H. PATEL While research practitioners remain deadlocked in old debates about the incompatibility and validity of qualitative versus quantitative research, streams of real-time data are overwhelming leading companies with individual-level insights at a scale and velocity impossible to achieve with traditional methods. Remaining relevant in the age of analytics no longer depends on the perfection of either methodology, but on the evolution of a creative, inter-disciplinary combination of both qualitative and quantitative approaches. Nevertheless, until we are done with the past, the past is never truly done with us. This paper establishes a new inter-disciplinary epistemology by tracing the historical development of the current qualitative versus quantitative divide. In so doing, I aim to discredit the assumptions underpinning the current debate, and illustrate how the shared epistemological origins of both statistics and ethnography inform the empirical formulations behind new “hybrid” quantitative-qualitative methods....

The Best of Both (Virtual) Worlds: Using Ethnography and Computational Tools to Study Online Behavior

NICOLAS DUCHENEAUT, NICHOLAS YEE and VICTORIA BELLOTTI In recent years, many ethnographers have conducted participant observation studies in virtual worlds, whether in games like World of Warcraft or user-generated environments like Second Life. However, the acceptance of digital fieldwork as a legitimate form of ethnography does not make it strictly identical to its physical counterpart. In particular, the logistics of virtual ethnography offer both opportunities and pitfalls that practitioners must address. The virtual nature of the space also compounds traditional issues such as generalizability and coverage. In this paper, we will highlight several interesting opportunities and challenges in conducting ethnography in virtual worlds. Moreover, we will then argue that the common problems shared by quantitative and qualitative social scientists in virtual world research serve to bridge the methodological divide, such that virtual ethnography could be greatly enhanced with the use of computational tools usually more associated with...

Harmonizing Human Eyes with Digital Sensors

HIROSHI TAMURA and TAMAMI SUGASAKA In this article we report on our research that focused on enhancing shopping experiences by introducing new media services in the physical environment of grocery shopping. Since we were interested in situated shopper’s experiences we conducted fieldwork. In particular, we paid attention to the holistic grocery shopping process because a shopping experience is, as we suggest, more than a composition of discrete actions and/or feelings towards a shopping arena. Rather it is a type of narrative featuring various vignettes. In addition to pure ethnographic observation, digital sensors were used as a complementary means to observe shopper’s experiences, since digital-sensor observation enabled us to record shopper’s entire moment-to-moment behaviors with unified metrics, i.e. digital sensors served to complement our perceptions that turned out to be less reliable in terms of consistency; under these conditions of time-space transition, observers face difficulties to become aware of subtle changes...

Numbers Have Qualities Too: Experiences with Ethno-Mining

KEN ANDERSON, DAWN NAFUS, TYE RATTENBURY and RYAN AIPPERSPACH Field research holds a special place for those who conduct it. It is also our anchor for relevance in the corporation. This paper explores the authors’ experiences with “ethno-mining”, a way of joining data base mining and ethnography. Since 2004 we have been using a variety of sensing and behavioral tracking technologies in conducting field research. We will present the main characteristics of doing ethno-mining, compare ethno-mining to other field research technologies, highlight the strengths of ethno-mining in co-creating data with participants and conclude by noting how the representations have opened new conversations and discourses inside the corporation. In this way, these new opportunities to collect sometimes counterintuitive data contributes to the research itself as well as the ongoing process of constructing oneself as relevant....

“Name That Segment!”: Questioning the Unquestioned Authority of Numbers

DONNA K. FLYNN, TRACEY LOVEJOY, DAVID SIEGEL and SUSAN DRAY In many companies, numbers equal authority. Quantitative data is often viewed as more definitive than qualitative data, while its shortcomings are overlooked. Many of us have worked to marry quantitative with qualitative methods inside organizations to present a fuller view of the people for whom we develop. One area of research that increasingly needs to blend quantitative and qualitative methods is user segmentations. Our software technology product team has been using a segmentation based on quantitative data since 2005. One outcome of this effort has been the development of an algorithm–based “typing” tool intended to be used as a standard tool in recruiting for all segmentation-focused research. We learned that the algorithm was an indecipherable black box, its inner workings opaque even to those who owned it internally. This case study looks at how qualitative research came up against the impenetrable authority of a quantitative segmentation and its associated...